Why it’s legit to doubt the University of Colorado UFO study that shuttered Project Blue Book
In 1947, a U.S. Air Force (USAF) inquiry into “flying saucers” determined the phenomenon to be “something real and not visionary or fictitious.” This inquiry was the impetus for official UFO studies conducted by the USAF from 1947 to 1969. Although the USAF begrudgingly took on this task, public interest helped keep their UFO projects alive.
In December 1969, the USAF finally got out of the UFO business. A document titled The U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet Concerning UFO's and Project BLUE BOOK that can be found on the National Archive’s website states:
“The decision to discontinue UFO investigations was based on an evaluation of a report prepared by the University of Colorado entitled, "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects;" a review of the University of Colorado's report by the National Academy of Sciences; past UFO studies and Air Force experience investigating UFO reports during the 40s, '50s, and ‘60s.
As a result of these investigations and studies and experience gained from investigating UFO reports since 1948, the conclusions of Project BLUE BOOK are:(1) no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security;(2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as "unidentified" represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge; and(3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as "unidentified" are extraterrestrial vehicles.”
Edward Condon, a well-regarded physicist, headed the University of Colorado’s UFO study. Many refer to the study as the Condon Report.
For the media and the scientific community, the study has been enough to write off the entire subject and move on. Recently it has been revealed by the New York Times that the Pentagon has a secret UFO study that allegedly continues to this day. However, it has been questioned whether or not this is a waste of time, because we already looked into UFOs for decades and found there was nothing to it.
The problem with this thinking is it assumes the University of Colorado’s study was universally accepted. However, it was not.
One of the leading critics of the study was Dr. J. Allen Hynek (seen above). Hynek was a professor of astronomy who served as a consultant for the USAF UFO studies from 1948 to 1969. When he began working with the USAF, he had said he felt the whole UFO phenomenon was “utterly ridiculous.” However, he later changed his mind and spent the rest of his life researching the subject.
As for the University of Colorado’s study, in his book The Hynek UFO Report, Hynek states, “if one goes past Dr. Condon’s summary…one will probably find the Condon Report to be a powerful document in favor of the reality of the UFO phenomenon.” In his book, The UFO Experience, A Scientific Inquiry, he wrote that the report "avoided mentioning that there was embedded within the bowels of the report a remaining mystery; that the committee had been unable to furnish adequate explanations for more than a quarter of the cases examined.”
Hynek also notes in The Hynek UFO Report, that the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) reviewed the document as well and came up with a similar conclusion. The AIAA stressed that it is essential to read the entire study, not just the many summaries available because opposing views were shard, and Condon’s often sighted summary contained more of his “personal opinion.” They wrote, “the [AIAA] UFO Sub-Committee did not find a basis in the report for his prediction that ‘nothing of scientific value will come of further studies.’”
Another person of importance who agreed with these critics was an engineer for France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), Claude Poher - the CNES is the equivalent of NASA in the U.S. Poher read a copy of the Condon Report, but he had a much different reaction to the case studies than Condon. To Poher, the Condon report demonstrated there was something to the UFO phenomenon.
Poher was so inspired by what he read that he went to his superiors and was able to convince them to create a UFO study group within CNES. In 1977, the study group was made permanent under the name Groupement d’Etude des Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés (GEPAN). Although the group has changed in size and scope over the years, it still exists to this day as the Groupe d ’Études et d ’Information sur les Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non identifiés (GEIPAN). It is one of the few public official government UFO organizations in existence.
While the Condon Report was used to close Project Blue Book in the U.S., it inspired the creation of GEIPAN in France.
The Low Memo
As can be seen by the response of critics, upon reading the Condon Report, many feel the summary provided at the beginning by Condon does not reflect the body of the report. Some had questioned whether Condon had read the report at all, or if he had made his conclusion before the report was started. In 1967, while the study was underway, evidence was leaked that supported this point of view.
Dr. James McDonald, a senior physicist at the Institute for Atmospheric Physics and a professor at the University of Arizona, was leaked a memo from individuals within the Condon Committee. McDonald was an advocate for the scientific investigation of UFOs, so the leakers knew they would find with him a sympathetic ear. The committee members leaked the memo because they felt there was a preconceived bias to the study.
University of Colorado administrator Robert Low wrote the memo in the summer of 1966 while the University was negotiating with the USAF and considering whether they would take on the project. The memo was sent to a couple of his fellow University of Colorado administrators reassuring them that the study would be sure not to discover anything controversial.
“Our study would be conducted almost entirely by non-believers who, though they couldn't possibly prove a negative result, could and probably would add an impressive body of thick evidence that there is no reality to the observations. The trick would be, I think, to describe the project so that, to the public, it would appear a totally objective study but, to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of non-believers trying their best to be objective but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer.”
Many of the UFO organizations cooperating with the study ended their participation when the memo was leaked. However, skeptics had claimed that Condon had not seen the memo before it was leaked, and thus it had no impact on the study. The leakers had sent the memo to McDonald because they felt differently.
After the memo’s release, the leakers were discovered and removed from their participation in the Codon Committee.
Much has been written about the Condon Report, and often when researchers - including myself - inquire about USAF or other government involvement in UFO studies, they are sent the USAF Fact Sheet referenced above. This has been the case for decades. Little did we know the Pentagon has had a secretive UFO research group since 2007. Senator Reid, who secured the funding for the Pentagon UFO project, claims he believes other UFO projects exist that remain secret.
Pointing to the Condon Report as evidence that there is no reason to investigate the UFO phenomenon may not be as strong an argument as it appears at first glance. Apparently, the Pentagon, and potentially other government entities, also seem to have found reasons to take the matter seriously and allegedly continue to investigate the phenomenon behind closed doors.